It was an uncomfortable night for journalist, Peter van Onselen as he co-hosted Tuesday’s The Project.
During a scheduled interview, journalist Amy Remeikis– who was there to promote her groundbreaking new book ‘On Reckoning’– wasted no time in slamming her interviewer for his backward, “irresponsible” and “devastating” position on the women’s movement and the conduct of 2021 Australian of the Year, Grace Tame.
Remeikis started speaking about the catalyst for her book which centres on the fury of Australia’s women in recent times, and a reflection on Brittany Higgins’ bravery in going public with allegations of rape inside Parliament House. She explained why the Prime Minister’s comments at the time, and his assertion that he connected with Higgins’ trauma only after his wife Jenny suggested he frame it in the context of he being a father of daughters, was so damaging.
When PVO jumped in to question why the PM’s choice of words and conduct were so problematic Remeikis didn’t hold back, implicating her interviewer in the pervasive, sexist bias that women continually come up against after his column that day in The Australian criticised Grace Tame for her response to the PM at the Australia Day Honours Event.
van Onselen’s scathing opinion piece on the awkward encounter between Tame and Morrison, labelled Tame “ungracious, rude and childish”, and suggested that if she felt so disdainfully toward the PM she should have stayed home.
“Your column today, devastating to so many people”, Remeikis slammed him.
“Woman constantly have to come out talk about their trauma… talk about not being taken seriously, scream the roof down get to the point where I’m almost crying on national television to talk about this,” she added.
“We’re constantly being told how we should act, who we should think about and who perhaps should be seen in our place”.
Bickmore then queried Onselen on why he felt compelled to instruct Tame to act in a certain way and to smile during a “catastrophe”.
“You spoke about how she acted as a child, you know when she should have been able to act as a child? When she was a child. But she was preyed upon by a man and lost part of herself in that,” Bickmore shot at him.
“I’m unsure how that article today helps when I’m assuming, like the entire nation, you want violence against women and children to end?”
Onselen responded saying that while he understood the importance of the conversation around sexual abuse, his opinion was that if Tame couldn’t be polite to Morrison “then just don’t go” to the event.
“I don’t think she should stand there and smile, I just think she shouldn’t go if you can’t show basic courtesies to the Prime Minister,” he said.
“But you wrote an entire column saying she was being childish because she showed her authentic feelings,’ Remeikis fired back.
“I thought she was being childish,” van Onselen said.
The segment closed tensely with PVO holding up Remeikis’ book for promotion, saying: “I’ve even read it”, and Remeikis adding she hoped he’d learnt something from it.
In the aftermath of the interview, Twitter erupted with many rushing to the support of Bickmore and Remeikis.